Sudden drops in BP may increase dementia risk

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New research suggests that those who experience sudden blood pressure drops in their middle age may be more likely to develop dementia in old age. For the new study, Rawlings and team isolated the data on 11,503 patients who had no history of heart disease and visited the hospital for the first time. Scientists took the patients’ BP after they had lay down for 20 minutes.

The team clinically followed the participants for the following two decades or more.

They found that people with OP upon their first visit had a 40 higher risk of developing dementia than their OP-free counterparts. Patients with OP also had 15 percent more cognitive decline.

“Even though these episodes are fleeting, they may have impacts that are long lasting. We found that those people who suffered from orthostatic hypotension in middle age were 40 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not. It is a significant finding and we need to better understand just what is happening”, Andreea Rawlings, lead author said.

As this is an observational study, researchers cannot establish causality or explain whether OP is an indicator of another disease responsible for the cognitive decline. However, they speculate that the decrease in the blood flow to the brain may play a role.

The lead author of the study also acknowledges the study’s limitation that arises from not knowing whether the patients had a singular episode of OP, or whether they had lived with the recurring symptoms over time.

“Identifying risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia is important for understanding disease progression, and being able to identify those most at risk gives us possible strategies for prevention and intervention,” Rawlings says. “This is one of those factors worth more investigation.”